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Headquarters: White Oak, United States
Founded: 1930
Industry: Consumer protection

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The Food and Drug Administration is the US government agency responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of for example human and veterinary drugs and the nation's food supply. Learn more at www.fda.gov/home

Assessing food label effectiveness for the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates and monitors food labeling standards in the United States and sets guidelines for how to best convey essential information. Nutrition information panels and related text or images are the only way consumers can easily understand the nutritional content of the food they’re buying which is why ensuring this information is effectively seen and understood is so important.

“Great news -- our paper is accepted for publication!! Without the Tobii Pro Insight research team we could not have accomplished this. You have done excellent work on the study, its analysis, and preparation of the manuscript.”

Dr. Chung-Tung J. Lin
Food and Drug Administration

The question

The FDA wanted to better understand how nutrition information on food products is received by consumers. In particular, the organization wanted to know, if consumers actively seek this information, and if so, how much is noticed during the process of selecting or comparing products. The FDA also wanted to understand what portions of the nutrition information are viewed and how branding and marketing messages affect the visual behavior of shoppers when reading product packaging.

The method

Our research consultancy team, Tobii Pro Insight, worked in collaboration with the FDA on an eye tracking study of shopper behavior and visual attentiveness to nutritional information. Sixty participants were eye tracked while shopping and then asked to recall important information about grocery products in the cereal, soup, and snack aisles. The eye tracking data was then analyzed in conjunction with participants’ survey responses to better understand shoppers’ attitudes towards nutrition information and their actual behavior in-store.

The outcome

The results showed that only a third of participants viewed nutrition information at least once, and among those who had viewed the "nutritional contents label," eye tracking data revealed the actual time spent looking at this information was less than one second. Among all participants, only two looked at the ingredients list.

These findings indicated to the FDA that there is room for improvement in conveying important point of sale nutrition information to consumers as most visual attention is fixated on non-nutritional elements (e.g., brand name, product name, imagery, and pricing).

Read the full academic paper